I love to cook and bake with both fresh and dried cranberries, especially during the holidays. There is just something about the sweet/tart flavor of the cranberry that beautifully offsets the richness of about everything else being served. (And yes I know I am not the first person to realize that cranberries go extremely well with such dishes as roast turkey! As a child, did I not hate that red jelly like stuff that came in a can and was on our dinner table every Thanksgiving and Christmas?) Well of course I did. I was a smart child! Even at the ripe old age of 5, I knew that anything that jiggled was sure to be awful. Even at that early an age I had already developed a loathing for Jell-O that, BTW, has never wavered. To the point where my own sweet darlings never experienced Jell-O as children. So as a child myself, that red stuff that wiggled when you plopped it out of the can never really had a chance.
As a young adult however, being entertained by people with more sophisticated palates than my parents, and learning how to prepare cranberry sauce myself from fresh berries, I never looked back on that canned jellied stuff I hated as a kid. But back to this recipe. (I have no idea how or why I get off on some of my tangents, but eventually I get back on track, so please bear with me. Perhaps I have this problem because I didn’t eat enough Jell-O as a child? I can’t for the life of me think of any other possible reason!)
Anyway – this recipe for pilaf is especially wonderful when served with a rich main dish. Be it roast chicken, pork, or beef, the sweet and savory flavor and subtle tartness are just a wonderful accompaniment to the rich flavor of the meat. Served with a simple green salad or green veggie, this side dish is bound to become one of your favorites. And the fact that it bakes in the oven leaving you free to finish the other dishes you are serving or sit down and enjoy a glass of wine, is just an added bonus. So give it a try. You will not be disappointed.
- 2 T. unsalted butter
- ½ c. minced shallots
- 1 c. wild rice
- 1 c. short-grain brown rice
- 4 c. chicken or vegetable stock
- ½ c. dried cranberries
- 1 bay leaf
- ¾ tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves or ¼ tsp. dried thyme
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- ½ c. pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
- ¼ c. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
In a heavy 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wild rice and the brown rice and stir until the grains are well coated, about 3 minutes. Stir in the stock, dried cranberries, bay leaf, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, stir and cover. Transfer the pan to a pre-heated 375 degree oven and bake until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, 50-60 minutes. Remove from the oven. Discard the bay leaf. Adjust seasonings. Stir in the pecans and parsley. Serve hot or warm.
Recipe Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Christmas, by Carolyn Miller (Simon & Schuster, 2003).